Stories from Afar & Up Close

Wedding Season: 2008 (extended edition)

Tomorrow is the finale of wedding season 2008: I will attend my fifth (and last) wedding of this summer. It will be the fifth time that I am supposed to get a new dress, new shoes, new purse, and a professional to do my hair and make-up for a considerable amount of money. (And to think that five is not even considered to be a lot, knowing that one of my friends had to attend no less than 14 weddings over the course of four months – that’s more than one a week!) (And to add that I am lucky that not all my friends know each other, so I can get away with alternating dresses and switching shoes to look all new and shiny for the next party…) (But I digress.) The season was actually kicked off in The Netherlands by my cousin who finally got married to his boyfriend. Hilarity all over, of course, when I came back to Beirut and was asked to recount my holiday-adventures in Arabic class. ‘So, I went to my cousins wedding, and his husband…’ ‘HER husband’, my teacher immediately corrected, ‘ehm, no, HIS husband….’ Oh yes, that’s how we do things in Holland, as she remarked rather displeased, but in Lebanon, weddings aren’t to be taken too lightly.

Weddings in Lebanon are serious business, in fact. Everything is important: the amount of invitees, the number of guests, the prestige of the location, the abundance of the decoration, the costumes of the dancers, the freshness of the flower-arrangements, the amount of food, the sparklingness of the bride’s dress – everything. For upper class Lebanese, weddings are the ultimate way to show their position in society, and for those longing to be part of the upper class they are the ultimate way to create a gigantic debt and pretend to have a position in society to show off. Upper class weddings are nothing like the village wedding that I attended two years ago, where all the guests fitted in one front yard.

A typical wedding will include all or most of the following: - 1/3rd of the more than 500 guests are friends and close relatives of the couple, the rest are very-far extended family and business-partners invited by the parents - after the groom has walked in on his own, all eyes are out for the grand entrance of the bride, who will be accompanied by her father and preceded by up to 8 traditional dancers jumping and twirling - of the three camera-crews present, one is instructed to focus on the bride and on the bride only. The other two are for the groom, the couple, the decoration, and the audience (excuse me: guests) - the couple will spend the evening going around the room to have their picture taken with everyone of the 500+ guests, who will receive a copy of the picture on their way out as a thank-you note - a five layers high wedding cake, which will be lightly cut by the couple jointly holding the saber, then carted off to a corner of the room while the guests are served pieces of another inedible cake decorated with white glazing - a band with a keyboard or a dj, who plays the exact list of songs the bride has told him she likes, in complete disregard of the mood of the guests who are supposed to have dinner or dance to it - the throwing of the wedding-bouquet, even though blindly over the right shoulder, inevitably straight into the hands of the best friend who is, unfortunately, still unmarried - an amount of make-up on the guest’s faces that could sustain a theater-company for a year, and a collection of glittering jewelry on the guest’s necks, ears, arms, and fingers that would make the Rockefeller Christmas-tree look pale in comparison - the incessant repetition of the wish Ae’belik – ‘may you be next’, even if you have no intention of getting hitched anytime soon - and, not to forget, a worried mother of the bride who keeps running around her daughter to make sure the dress is always draped in perfect position. You know, for the pictures.

And if you don’t believe me? Come join me tomorrow. There are 1200 invitees – I think I can sneak in one extra…

Cutting the cake

Wishing all my friends who got married this year luck and happiness in their marriages. Alf mabrouk!